Opinion

Palestinians Under the Israeli Boot: A Formula for Tyranny in Cheap Makeup

avner gvaryahu
Avner Gvaryahu
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An IDF soldier in Tafoh, near Hebron on June 15, 2014.Credit: AFP
avner gvaryahu
Avner Gvaryahu

In Haaretz of May 1, Micah Goodman posed the question: “What can the coronavirus teach us about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?” It seems the virus taught him what he was already thinking in 2017, when he published the book “Catch-67.” His positions on the Trump peace plan were published three months ago, when there were only 30,000 people infected with the virus. Perhaps the coronavirus has something to teach us, but it hasn’t taught Goodman anything.

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“[T]ry not to think in a binary way – think in a corona way,” Goodman wrote, suggesting Israel adopt South Africa’s Bantustan model, straight from the mid-20th century. He doesn’t write as such in so many words. Few do, but that’s the upshot. Goodman, who belongs to a kind of mystical center, may enjoy this criticism. The idea that if both sides attack you, then you are probably in the right has become their main tenet of faith.

“We are the okay people,” Hanoch Levin wrote. “Very okay people.” However, the reality that Goodman proposes to us is far from being okay. It is an old Afrikaner system under a more modern and palatable cover. Even the pragmatism it promises is as leaky as a sieve.

Goodman proposes adopting the Trump plan while removing “its utopian elements” – annexation and signing a peace agreement that ends the conflict. What would remain, he asserts, is “an optimal situation for Israel”: limited Palestinian sovereignty alongside maximalist security arrangements that would prevent turning the West Bank into a second Gaza.

The Palestinians are not a factor in this optimal reality. We will decide, they will obey. We will teach them to live with the conflict, they will learn to live with the occupation. In other words, they will get “roads under Palestinian sovereignty.” I had the opportunity to see Knesset members marketing apartheid as a “deficit in democratic characteristics,” as Peace Now put it. I have yet to see it marketed as sovereignty over transportation networks.

Palestinian police officers check the identity card of a vehicle's occupant during a home-confinement order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, in Hebron, the West Bank, April 7, 2020.
Palestinian police officers check the identity card of a vehicle's occupant during a home-confinement order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, in Hebron, the West Bank, April 7, 2020.Credit: Mussa Qawasma/Reuters

While Goodman officially rejects annexation, his plan suggests de facto annexation of the settlements, and permanently freezing the status quo. One stolen glimpse of the map is sufficient to understand the significance of this step. In place of a state, Goodman offers the Palestinians a fake sovereignty, devoid of independent borders, and demands of them to make do with a chain of negligible enclaves surrounded by Israel, to make do with Israel determining their fate.

Goodman doesn’t explain what should be done if the Palestinians don’t accept the archipelago offered to them. It is doubtful whether he considered the issue of their opinion. However, it is a critical question, especially if you make claim to seek to prevent the West Bank from turning into a second Gaza. He doesn’t dare dive into details, which will shape my daily life as a soldier and shapes the Palestinians’ lives.

Will we continue to control the economy and the currency, the air space, the water supply, the cellular channels, the population registry? Will we continue to engage in the massive surveillance project on social networks? What are the security arrangements that will prevent the Bantustans of Goodman and Trump from turning into future hotbeds of radicalism?

Israeli soldiers patrol a fence to prevent Palestinian labourers without work permits entering Israel amid concerns about the spread of the coronavirus. Israeli-occupied West Bank, April 7, 2020
Israeli soldiers patrol a fence to prevent Palestinian labourers without work permits entering Israel amid concerns about the spread of the coronavirus. Israeli-occupied West Bank, April 7, 2020Credit: RANEEN SAWAFTA/ REUTERS

Do we envision Israeli soldiers continuing to enter Palestinian homes every night as part of the routine of “demonstrating a presence,” as happens currently in Areas A and B as well, or will Israel suffice with absolute control of the areas surrounding the Bantustans?

Israeli politicians have hoped for 53 years, and counting, that the Palestinians would quietly live under the Israeli boot, if we could just find a way of improving the boot. Goodman is basically the latest in a chain.

However, the truth doesn’t always lie at the centerpoint of political debate. The truth wasn’t at the midpoint of the political debate in South Africa of the 1980s nor in the South in the United States of the 19th century. People live in the territories. Real people, with hands, organs, a shape, senses, desires, feelings. Anyone who promises that we can ignore them and obtain peace is selling the public a fantasy disguised as pragmatism, tyranny covered in cheap makeup.

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